McAuliffe leads polls before election day

Cuccinelli could win if Election Day voters mobilize, Sabato says

With the Virginia governor’s race entering its final days, recent polling has consistently shown Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a lead against Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

The Washington Post released a poll earlier this week showed McAuliffe with his largest projected margin, a 12-point lead over current Attorney General Cuccinelli with a 4.5-point margin of error. Libertarian Robert Sarvis get 8 percent of the vote. Likely Virginia voters, according to the poll, prefer McAuliffe to Cuccinelli in regards to women’s issues, the economy, jobs and healthcare. Conversely, likely voters believe Cuccinelli would be better than McAuliffe at handling transportation.

With the Virginia governor’s race entering its final days, recent polling has consistently shown Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a lead against Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

Public Policy Polling released a poll on Sunday, which gave McAuliffe a 50 to 43 percent lead, with Sarvis at 4 percent. The poll’s margin of error was 3.3 percent. According to the poll, 82 percent of Democrats will support McAuliffe, while 79 percent of Republicans will vote for Cuccinelli on Election Day.

A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday, however, showed McAuliffe with just a four-point lead with a 2.9 percent margin of error. Sarvis received 9 percent of the vote in the poll. Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which released the poll, said the race is getting close, but McAuliffe still holds an advantage.

“Cuccinelli seems to be benefitting from Republicans [returning to support party candidates], but McAuliffe still does a little better among Democrats than Cuccinelli does among GOPers,” Brown said. “McAuliffe leads among independents, perhaps the key voting group. It is difficult to see Cuccinelli winning if he can’t run at least even or slightly ahead among independents.”

Hampton University released a more contentious poll this week, initially showing McAuliffe with a six-point lead against Cuccinelli with a 2.9-point margin of error, but claiming that if Sarvis were not in the race McAuliffe would have just a one-point lead — 42-41. Twelve percent of likely voters said they would choose Sarvis, according to the Hampton poll.

Politics Prof. Larry Sabato, director of the University’s Center for Politics, said these differences are because of how each poll defined a “likely voter.” But because of the information presented in the polls, there is not enough information to compare and contrast their voting data, Sabato said.

“[Their difference] doesn’t say much of anything,” Sabato said in an email.

Amy McMahon, director of communications and recruitment for the College Republicans, said turnout is crucial for Cuccinelli’s best chance at winning the election.

“Turnout is going to be the key factor as to who emerges the winner,” third-year College student McMahon said in an email. “The polls are simply indicators of the current thoughts on the matter, but those polls are not always indicative of who actually ventures to the polls and votes on election day. If Cuccinelli convinces voters that the election is still close and every vote counts, he will come out more favorably.”

Sabato recommended looking at polling aggregates as evidence of how the election is going instead of looking at individual poll data. For example, the current Real Clear Politics polling aggregate average, which uses data from multiple polls, has McAuliffe ahead by 7.4 points.

Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the Center for Politics, said Cuccinelli may not have enough time to catch up to McAuliffe.

“Too many people have made up their minds at this point about who they are going to vote for,” Skelley said. “Therefore, it remains unlikely that he will win, which is why we [Sabato’s Crystal Ball] still have the race rated as ‘Likely Democratic.’”

Sabato said Cuccinelli could win if he mobilizes voters on Election Day, but that McAuliffe is relatively safe.

“Occasionally favorites are upset on election day, but it doesn’t happen very often,” Sabato said.

This article has been updated to include Libertarian Robert Sarvis’ poll totals.

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